Farmer Focus: Hoping for more litres and a successful operation

I write with a degree of trepidation, as I’m heading into hospital in a few days to have a hernia repaired.

I’ve been waiting about two years, but finally had the phone call just before Christmas to confirm the date. 

As it turns out, the timing couldn’t really be much better, with all cattle housed and on the full winter routine. Even so, I doubt I’ll be allowed the full six weeks’ recovery time. 

See also: Zero grazing helps dairy goat farmer to reduce concentrates

About the author

Colin Murdoch
Ayrshire farmer and zero grazer Colin Murdoch switched from Holsteins to milking 225 Jerseys in 2019. The 182ha farm grows 40ha of winter and spring barley for a total mixed ration and parlour fed system supplying Graham’s Family Dairy.
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We had a lovely family Christmas. It seems to get better the older our two boys get.

I was, however, unprepared for our five-year-old asking: “That wasn’t actually the real Santa, was it, Dad?” after our annual visit to Dumfries House grotto.

You’d think they’d have managed to get a better one by royal appointment this year. Once again, all I got was socks, and a new JCB…hat. 

As always, there were the usual unexpected breakdowns.

The rope breaking on the automatic scrapers on Boxing Day was about the biggest hassle, especially as the starter motor on the scraper tractor went on the same day.  

We seem to have escaped the worst of the past few winter storms, other than serious amounts of rain.

Our annual total of 1,110mm is probably about average for us, although more than 150mm of that was in the last few weeks of the year. 

It’s so ridiculously mild and wet here now, it’s doing cattle no favours at all.

Our youngstock sheds are all open on one side. Even with plenty of air movement we’ve still lost a few animals to pneumonia.

I’d like to see our milk cows performing better this winter. Butterfat is fantastic, at 6.8%, but I fear we’ve lost too many litres by trying to drive too much from forage through the summer.

We’ve quite a few dry at the moment, and a batch of 30 heifers about to calve, so that should see production creep back up.     

Crystal ball time for predictions for the year? Not a clue. It’s nice to see milk prices beginning to go up again, but who knows if input costs will remain stable.

We need politicians that actually have a clue what they’re doing, on both sides of the border.